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Real Estate News

Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ask the HOA Expert: Special Assessments

Question: Our pool and clubhouse are 15 years old. The board wants to build a larger pool and upgrade the clubhouse which would require a 200,000 special assessment and drain our reserves.

Answer: The board has no authority to expand the common area amenities. Its authority is to maintain existing amenities in good condition. However, if an appropriate majority of the members are in favor of raising and spending this money for this purpose, that is acceptable. However, the "appropriate" majority may be a super majority of two thirds or more depending on how your governing documents read. This requirement could effectively kill the proposal.

Question: We did not have a quorum at our last annual meeting. So, the manager passed out blank proxies for people to sign just in case they couldnt attend the rescheduled meeting. When I asked who would be the appointee for the proxies, I was told that they would be divided among the board members. Is this the way it is usually done?

Answer: Proxies should have been distributed and collected in advance of the original annual meeting to ensure there was a quorum. Its up to the board and manager to make sure those proxies are collected before the meeting to make sure a quorum is secured, not simply hope enough people show up. Getting members to return proxies in advance takes persistence but is extremely important.

As far as the proxy process itself is concerned, a member has the right to designate a representative to act on their behalf at an annual or special member meeting. If that member either does not select a representative or the chosen representative fails to attend the meeting, the proxy could include an alternative to allow "one of the directors of the board" to vote on their behalf. If a member isnt comfortable with a board member voting, the proxy should include another alternative which states "If my designated representative fails to attend the meeting, this proxy is to be used for quorum purposes only." This way, the show can still go on. For a sample proxy, see Forms sections.

Question: Safety is a large concern in our HOA. One of our residents wanted to arrange for a Neighborhood Watch representative to speak at the annual meeting. The request went to the manager who said that the board had to approve a speaker. Weeks later, she claimed she could not get a response from the board. Does the board really need to approve a speaker?

Answer: Every meeting should have an agenda that is noticed in advance to all attendees. The typical annual meeting agenda template looks something like this:

I. Call to Order
II. Establish a quorum
III. Approve previous annual meeting minutes
IV. Officer and Committee Reports
V. Election of Directors to the Board
VI. Old Business
VII. New Business
VII. Adjourn Meeting

Since this is a business meeting, the typical agenda does not provide for speakers. However, if there is a proposal under New Business to, say, Improve Security Using Neighborhood Watch, it is enti>

That said, you do have the right to request time for a speaker. Your manager failed to address the request. "Not getting a response from the board" is a lame excuse. The board president is the one that approves the agenda. You could have called that person directly to discuss it and should do so in the future to avoid the bureaucratic bottleneck.

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Deck Those Condominium Halls

Question: At our condominium, the grounds and buildings are kept immaculately and our hallways and lobbies have just been renovated by a professional decorator. The lobbies look elegant, and halls are newly carpeted. Some owners, however, have taken it upon themselves to put tables, plants and even paintings in the corridors. Some owners are constantly asking for a more "democratic" acceptance of their tastes and wishes. Some have even suggested putting reproductions of Impressionist Art in the hallways, since they feel nobody could possible object.

Other owners believe that the professional decorator has done a good job, and that our building is beautified and in good taste. Is there any condominium rule to cover this problem? Can anyone put up art work in the hallways?

Answer: Lets face it; one persons definition of art will be another persons definition of pornography. You suggest that some owners want your association to be more democratic. The irony is that a community association is the ultimate of democracy -- with the good, the bad and often even the ugly.

The rule is quite simple: the common elements do not belong to the unit owners, but to everyone who owns a condominium unit within the complex. The Board of Directors of the Association is charged -- both by law and in your association legal documents -- with making most of the decisions for the Association.

Often these decisions are not earth shaking. Sometimes they involve making repairs to the common elements; sometimes they involve refurbishing the lobby and the elevators. And sometimes they even involve determining the color of the walls to be painted or the kind of art work to be displayed in those common elements.

Your Bylaws determine the Boards responsibilities. Some association Bylaws give the Board carte blanch authority to spend an unlimited amount of money for repairs, renovations and improvements. Other association documents place dollar limitations on the Board, requiring a majority of the unit owners to approve contracts that cost over a certain dollar amount for common element improvements.

In most cases, however, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the common elements rests with the Board of Directors. If a unit owner wants to put up a painting or a plant in the hall, that unit owner must obtain written approval from the Board. The unit owner cannot take it upon him or herself to decide what is in the best interest of the entire Association.

If a unit owner likes impressionistic art, they can hang all they want in their own apartment. If a unit owner likes a certain table or plant, those items can be nicely located in his/her unit. But no one unit owner has the right to make any decision for the entire Association.

Your Board must take immediate action to stop the individuals from decorating the common elements. Although I seldom recommend it, the Board can take self-help, and have those objects removed. Alternatively, if the Board has the legal authority to do so, it can issue fines against those unit owners who are acting improperly. And if it really becomes necessary, as a last resort, the Board can go to Court and seek a restraining order against the violators.

Board members have a difficult task. Regardless of what they do, someone will no doubt object. Thus, before a Board decides to make aesthetic changes to the common elements, it is strongly recommended that input be sought from the unit owners.

I know of several associations that were facing similar issues. They had their interior decorator make some drawings which were posted in the front lobby. All owners were given two weeks in which to review those plans, and then an "informal" community meeting was held to discuss the plans and obtain comments from the unit owners.

While the final decision was made by the Board of Directors, they did receive -- and accept -- input from the owners. And even those owners who objected to the plans, recognized the fairness of the decision-making process.

In the final analysis, if you do not like the decisions made by the Board, you should consider running for office so that you can be part of the decision-making team.

That is the essence of democracy.
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Californians To Vote On Rent Control Initiative

Come November, Californians will vote on whether or not to adopt the Affordable Housing Act. It is not too early to begin discussing the details and the effects of this ballot initiative.

The initiative, as summarized by its proponents in the signature-gathering phase, does this:

Repeals state law that currently restricts the scope of rent-control policies that cities and other local jurisdictions may impose. Allows policies that would limit the rental rates that residential-property owners may charge for new tenants, new construction, and single-family homes. In accordance with California law, provides that rent-control policies may not violate landlords right to a fair financial return on their rental property.

The act, then, is not one that would set detailed rent control policies. Rather, its major significance is that it would repeal the states current over-arching rent control legislation. That legislation is embodied in what is widely referred to as the Costa-Hawkins Act. The Act, so-named because it was sponsored by Senator Jim Costa D and Assemblyman Phil Hawkins R, was adopted by the Legislature in 1995. It is embodied in California Civil Code 1954.5 -- 1954.535.

The Costa-Hawkins Act did not prohibit rent control in California, but it did seve>1. It prohibits "vacancy control". Vacancy control would require that a vacated unit must remain at the same rental rates that applied to the previous occupant.

2. It prohibits rent control from applying to units whose certificate of occupancy was issued after Feb. 1, 1995.

3. It prohibits rent control from applying to single-family homes or condominiums.

If the proposed initiative passes, it will repeal the restrictions that are currently imposed by Costa-Hawkins. It is important to note that the Affordable Housing Act does not impose any new rental housing restrictions. Instead, it leaves to local jurisdictions to adopt, essentially, whatever rules they want, as long as they do not "violate landlords right to a fair financial return on their rental property."

Currently, fifteen California cities have some kind of rent control ordinance. Prominent among them are Berkley, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and West Hollywood. They all operate within the limits of Costa-Hawkins, If Costa-Hawkins is repealed, those ordinances would still remain in place. However, they could then be changed in a variety of ways.

The immediate effects of passing the initiative sponsored by the Housing Affordability Coalition and who can oppose that? would be negligible. Effects would not be evident until local jurisdictions came up with their own formulations if they should choose to do so. But those effects could be enormous. Simply put, passage of this initiative could have the result of reducing the number of rental units to be built and available in the California market. That is the belief of the opposition group, Californians for Responsible Housing and who can be against that?. They argue that, in the long run, passing this initiative could be a very bad thing for tenants.

Were going to be hearing a lot from both sides. Be thoughtful. Ask questions. And vote.
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How Do Clients Rate Your Service?

When was the last time you took a close look at your service from the client point of view?

Much is made of "Im Number 1" sales awards which celebrate the number of deals closed, but is the same level of attention paid to professionalism in service delivery?

Length of time on the job, slick marketing, and the number of properties sold each year do not automatically indicate high standards of professionalism.

My definition of "professional" is "an attitude and an aptitude linked to the joy of a job well done and why that matters to others." "Professionalism," by my definition, "is measured by the reactions of those who are served and by the way they are made to feel mdash; important, significant, respected, valued." What are your working definitions of these foundation concepts which govern service quality?

Real estate offers specific service challenges: long periods of intense client interaction are required before, during, and often after each purchase or sale. Clients may spend weeks, months, or occasionally a year or more working with their real estate professional to progress to the offer stage. Sustaining high-quality customer service can be demanding, especially as it must be customized to each client or couples needs and decision-making criteria.

Service excellence lies in the details that are >Do your clients see your service level as "extreme excellence" or just OK? Rate your services according to the Top Five Criteria for Client-Centric Service Excellence:

1. Client interests come first.

The real estate professionals time, convenience, and commission should not be the priority. Sending out listings to prospects and showing properties are only part of the job. Applying expertise to strategize for a successful offer presentation and to master >

  • From the start, do you clarify exactly what the client wants to achieve and how well they understand the real estate process, so they can make informed decisions?
  • As a professional, do you explain to clients precisely to what degree you are accountable for results?
  • Are client rights protected throughout the entire real estate process and transaction, so they will not face disappointments, unexpected expenses, or problems after the transaction closes?

    2. Service concentrates on client needs.

    Professionalism involves tailoring information-analysis and decision-making to the needs of each client, not expecting clients to adjust their approach to the standard offerings of a brokerage. Problem-solving to establish the best match of property, finances, and functionality for each client is professionalism at its best. Labeling and pigeon-holing clients is not.

    • Do you have a range of up-to-date knowledge and skills in your "tool box," so you can offer the best resources and approaches to clients throughout the real estate process?
    • Do you know your own strengths and weaknesses, so clients do not lose out on a potentially-ideal property because you are overworked or distracted?
    • Do you respect client time and needs, so that the real estate process happens as smoothly and quickly as possible, with the minimum of hassles and stress for clients?

    3. Clients all receive top level service.

    In your mind, are all target prospects and clients equally important or are there deliberate inconsistencies in what individual clients receive from you in service and attention? Try considering each client as if they are the parent of the head of your firm or the regulatory body that issues your license. Act as if any deficiency on your part could be tomorrows viral post in order to keep focused on service excellence and taking responsibility for results and outcomes.

    • Do you provide better or more comprehensive service to personal friends or useful acquaintances?
    • Do you >

      4. Technology provides customized convenience for clients.

      Is your service-delivery design flexible enough to seamlessly incorporate ever-changing technology and social media that appeals to your target market?

      • Is your privacy policy all that your target prospects and clients expect it to be?
      • Is online transparency mdash; a social media essential mdash; an awkward fit for you and your brokerage?

      5. Strategic problem solving always favors clients goals.

      Your value to clients grows out of self-awareness, self-actualization, and self-discipline in acting for yourself and on behalf of others. You are paid to think exceptionally well for clients, so you must be exceptional at thinking for yourself.

      How strong are your powers of observation and communication?

      • When you cannot overcome a restriction or limitation, do you give up and consider it unsolvable?
      • Do you believe that when things go badly for you, you should be excused mdash; but still paid mdash; for providing less than your best effort for clients?

      The most significant differences between you and your competition mdash; within your brokerage and beyond it mdash; may lie in prospects and clients perception of the quality of the experience of dealing with you.

      From the client side of your services, is professionalism clearly and consistently evident?

      Source: PJs Whats Your Point blog and World Business Executive Coaching Summit
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      The 7 Worst Mistakes You Can Make While Renovating And How To Avoid Them

      Everyone wants to renovate. And now more than ever, they want to do it themselves. According to Remodeling magazine, "Big-ticket remodeling activity, already enjoying record economic conditions, is growing at its fastest pace in four years and should rise 5.1 this year alone." Those numbers are based on Metrostudys latest Residential Remodeling Index RRI.

      In addition, "TheRRIas of the first quarter of 2018 stood as 112.9, its highest reading ever. That number means the economic conditions known to influence remodeling activity are 12.9 better than the old peak in early 2007, just before the Great Recession. The RRI has shown year-over-year gains for 24 consecutive quarters, and as of 1Q18 it was 5.2 above the year-earlier levelthe highest such annual growth since the first quarter of 2014--and was 1.4 better than it was just three months prior."

      While all that remodeling is great for the economy and also, presumably, for individuals home equity, problems can arise when homeowners take on tasks themselves without the proper training or preparation. Keeping renovations on track is simple - if you know what to look out for so you can avoid big mistakes.

      Overestimating your skill

      Tiling looks easy, right? Why not do the entire bathroom, floors and walls. And who needs to take a >How to avoid mistakes:

      Take on something small, first. Test your skills, and your patience, before embarking on the tough stuff.

      Underestimating your budget

      Its a universal truth that no one ever puts aside enough money for their renovation. And it seems that the tighter your budget, the more likelihood there is that issues will arise to bust it The last thing you want is a problem that changes your entire plan last minute or makes you stop mid-renovation to make alternate plans or find more money.

      How to avoid it:

      Experts recommend setting your budget amount and then adding 20 percent, but, the more novice you are, the more you may want to add to that cushion.

      Minimizing the timeline

      Homeowners looking to do their own renovations can wildly underestimate the amount of time needed to make the changes. This is mostly due to inexperience but is also shaped by individual needs. Just because you only have two weekends to completely tear down and renovate your kitchen before your in-laws arrive doesnt mean its going to happen within that timeframe. Its more likely that theyll arrive to a mess and no functional place to prepare a meal, let alone the pretty finishes you wanted to show off.

      How to avoid it:

      Do some research. Listen to what the professionals say. Read some blogs from homeowners who have already done the DIY reno kitchen thing and absorb what they have to say. Really hear it instead of dismissing them as amateurs. Let the mistakes and experiences of others shape how you go about your renovation so your open eyes and open mind can guide you toward success.

      Swinging the hammer without a plan

      Demo sure looks fun on TV, and it can be fun. But it can also be seriously damaging to your property if you swing away without knowing what youre swinging away at, and you dont have a plan for what to do next, or what to do if you encounter something unexpected.

      "Work on older buildings can yield a lot of unforeseen events," said Architectural Digest. "Who knows whats behind that wall youre opening up? New construction is more controlled, but that doesnt always mean smooth sailing. Be prepared for the unexpected. We all hope and pray everything goes according to plan. Trust us: Nothing will."

      How to avoid it:

      Hire a structural engineer who can tell you exactly whats going on in the wall you want to take down there and ensure you dont do something crazy, like compromise the entire structure of your home.

      Not asking for help

      Congrats on that whole, "Im so independent" thing, but when it comes to renovating, the more the merrier. You want someone there to to help with the heavy lifting, to bounce ideas off of, and to confirm suspicions, when necessary.

      How to avoid it:

      Call your friends, call your fam, call your coworker whos the self-proclaimed Queen of Reno. If nothing else, having another human in the room will make the reno go quicker and will give you someone to talk to, other than yourself.

      Thinking you can just do it on weekends

      Sure, there are weekend warriors who can power through their Saturday and Sunday renos and go back to work on Monday, but, lets be real. Is that you? The last thing you want is to have to live in a mess for months while you figure out how to finish what you started.

      How to avoid it:

      One of the most important tips to consider before you embark on any renovation is to just get real honest with yourself about your natural tendencies. Some of us like spending 18 straight hours hammering and sawing and caulking, and some of us are tired and over it after the first 20 minutes.

      Not considering the impact on your marriage

      Theres a reason home renovation is one of the leading causes of divorce: The stress it causes. "Its not necessarily that the renovation process causes problems; its more that the process exacerbates whatever issues already exist in the >According to the publication, up to 17 percent of couples consider splitting up while fixing up.

      How to avoid it:

      Keep the communication going. And go into it knowing it will be stressful so youre prepared when things get testy. "Perhaps the best antidote to home renovation-
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      10 Places That Will Pay You To Move There

      Close to job. Great schools. Projected growth. Theyre all reasons why someone might consider buying a home in a certain area. But heres one more important reason: Because someone wants to pay you to move there.

      Thats right. You could actually make money moving to a new areahellip;if youre willing to go where the interest is.

      "The idea has spread where a strong economy, an aging population and an exodus of younger workers have triggered severe labor shortages - often places with very low unemployment rates and higher-than-average wage growth," said MSN. Thats why small towns across America, instead of offering incentives to employers, such asnbsp;Amazon.comnbsp;Inc., are giving it to workers - one by one.

      Were talking about places like:

      North Platte, Nebraska

      The city offers incentivesnbsp;"from student loan helpnbsp;and home buying grants, to gifted parcels of land and even town-wide ceremonies in your honor," said Inc. "Last year the North Platte chamber of commerce started offering up to 10,000 to anyone who movesnbsp;there for a job, in the hopes of helping the town of 24,000 fill some of itsnbsp;hundreds of job openings.nbsp;Theyll evennbsp;present you a large check during a ceremony in your honor."

      St. Clair County, Michigan

      This city has its eye on a student population who they hope will then stick around and pump money into the economy. They recently upped their student-loan scholarships from 10,000 to 15,000.

      Grant County, Indiana

      Move to Grant County with "advanced trainingnbsp;or a college degree" and you could getnbsp;5,000 toward a home from the economic development office. You have to stay for at least five years.nbsp;You could also get a 9,000 scholarship from thenbsp;chamber of commerce to help repay loans.

      Hamilton, Ohio

      Or, move to Hamilton, instead. The citys student loan repayment incentive is 5,000.

      Marne, Iowa

      You can even get a free piece of land when you move to Marne. "The small town of 120 has a free-lots programnbsp;that offers any newcomers a free piece of land to build a home on," said Inc. "The state of Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.8 percent."

      But its not just small American cities that are enticing new residents to move there. You can opt to move to Canada, Switzerland, Chile, or even Italy, and get paid to do so.

      Candela, Italy

      "It pays to live in Candela, Italy. The once-bustling town in Puglia has dropped from more than 8,000 residents in the 1990s to just 2,700 today, so the mayor is offering up to 2,000 euros about 2,350 to lure people back to the picturesque Medieval village of winding streets and restored palazzos surrounded by hills and forests," said Moneyish.

      To qualify, you must "live inside Candela, rent a house and have a job paying a salary of at least 7,500 euros 8,800 per year. Singles will receive 800 940 euros from the town coffers, couples will get 1,200 euros 1,400, three-member families will get 1,500 to 1,800 euros 1,760-2,100, and families of four to five people will get more than 2,000 euros 2,350. Candela may also give tax credits on city waste disposal, bills and nurseries in the future."


      "If youve graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution and you live in Saskatchewan, you can qualify for a tuition rebate of up to 20,000 under the provincesnbsp;Graduate Retention Program," said Slice.nbsp;

      Pipestone, Manitoba

      In the rural municipality of Pipestone, Manitoba, you can get a grant worth up to 32,000, buy a home with just a 1,000 deposit, and buy a lot for just 10.nbsp;

      Albinen, Switzerland

      Last year, residents of Albinen in southern Switzerland pushed for an incentive program to attract some more folks."According to the proposal, anyone who decides to move to the village and buy, refurbish or build a home should be paid an incentive: CHF 25,000 per adult and CHF 10,000 per child," said Swissinfo. "There arenbsp;conditions though: applicants must be below the age of 45 and commit themselves to living in Albinen for at least ten years. They will also need to invest a minimum of CHF200,000 in the property, with the financing approved by the bank. If someone moves away or sells the property within these ten years, they will have to pay back the money received from the village."


      Chile fancies itself the future business center of South America, so its efforts are geared toward startups. "In this scenario, Chile will pay a company 50,000 through their program Start-Up Chile," said Nomadapp. "In order to qualify, the startup must have the potential of becoming global and largely successful. In addition, they will provide you with a one-year work visa and business contacts. The support system is completely in English despite the country being primarily Spanish speaking."

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      The Fed Just Raised RatesSo What?

      Every six weeks or so the Federal Open Market Committee, or the FOMC, holds its two-day meetings to discuss the current economy with an eye on the future. The FOMC has various responsibilities but one of the actions it can take is to adjust the cost of funds.

      More specifically, it can adjust the Federal Funds rate. The Fed Funds rate is the rate at which banks can charge one another for short term lending. Short term as in overnight. When a bank makes such a move for a short-term loan itrsquo;s to shore up its reserve requirements. Banks are required to keep a specific amount of liquid funds available to meet customer demands for cash or credit.

      The Fed did indeed make such a move at its most recent round of talks and the committee members unanimously agreed to hike the Fed Funds rate by another 0.25 while also hinting at two more such moves before the end of this year. If that holds, that rate will have increased by a full percentage point in just one year. And thatrsquo;s a lot.

      But for those looking to buy and finance a home with a brand-new mortgage, these moves donrsquo;t affect mortgage rates. At least the most popular, fixed mortgage rates. When the Fed Funds rate is increased by 0.25, that is eventually passed onto their bank customers in the form of higher rates for automobile loans, credit cards and other non-mortgage consumer loans.

      Instead, mortgage rates are tied to a specific mortgage bond. For your average 30 year fixed conforming loan, the rate is tied to what is called the FNMA 30yr 4.0 or the FHLMC 30yr 4.0. Thatrsquo;s a bit technical for most but thatrsquo;s what nearly two out of every three fixed conforming loans are tied to. And because itrsquo;s a bond it acts just like any other bond. Bonds arenrsquo;t bought by investors for high returns but for safety. When an investor buys a bond, the returns are known in advance.

      If investors in general think the economy is starting to roll and gain strength well into the future, theyrsquo;ll pull money out of bonds and put more into stocks and mutual funds. When there is less demand for a bond, the price goes down just like with any other commodity. Less demand, lower price. Higher demand, higher price. The yield on the bond acts inversely to its price.

      Okay, letrsquo;s come up for air for a moment. In plain talk, as it >
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      Steps To Building Wealth

      Its never too late to secure your financial future. At, a public service offered by the Dallas Federal Reserve, you can learn how to reach your life goals by budgeting, saving and investing, building credit and controlling debt.

      When you understand the difference between assets and liabilities, you know that owning a home, contributing to a retirement plan, and creating savings are all assets in the making because they increase in value or provide a return. Automobiles, clothing, smartphones and furniture are not assets because they depreciate in value. Liabilities are debts that you owe to credit card companies, mortgage lenders, hospitals, etc.

      It doesnt make sense to go into debt to buy possessions that arent assets, unless it serves a necessity like a car that gets you to and from work. Thats why lenders look at your credit history to see how sensibly you spend money and if your finances fall within their income-to-debt guidelines. You dont want them finding that all your free income goes to eating out and mall shopping. No matter how much money you make, you shouldnt have more than 42 percent of your income going to pay liabilities and that should include credit card debt, rent, car payments, student loans, etc.

      So the first step is creating a budget that enables you to save money. Track your spending and see where money is wasted so you can cut back and create savings. If your company offers a 401K plan, contribute as much as you comfortably can. Give yourself a goal to eat out once a week instead of five times a week. Youll be surprised at how quickly youll build savings.

      Owning a home is one of the foundations of wealth. With rare exceptions, the longer you own your home, the more equity, or ownership youll have. Equity is created three ways - when your home rises in market value, when you pay down or pay off your liability, and when you make repairs and improvements that raise the value of the home.

      Home ownership is like a forced savings account. Until you sell the home, youre not going to touch the equity youve built unless you take on a liability by refinancing your mortgage to make improvements.

      To figure out what you need to do to buy a home of your own, you should create a budget and a gameplan and then calculate how long it will take you to save the amount you need. If you want to save 20,000, that will give you a 10 percent downpayment on a 200,000 home. Saving 200 a month, youll be able to buy a home in just over eight years, but its likely that youll save much more per month as your income increases, your spending habits improve, and your investments start to show returns.

      All it takes is time and money.

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      The Cohan Rule: Estimate Your Expenses For IRS Deductions
      Question: I built my own house. At first I stuffed receipts into a folder but toward the end when things got hectic, I forgot. I probably have receipts amounting to a quarter of what I believe I spent, land included. How can I establish a credible basis when it comes time to sell? The good news is the house is probably now worth a million and I think I spent less than 150k. Warren.

      Answer: Warren, We all have those stuffed receipts, although usually they are in a shoe box and not a folder. But all is not lost. Remember the song "Im a Yankee Doodle Dandy". Its author was George M. Cohan. Why do I mention this? Because the so-called "Cohan rule" will assist you.

      Oversimplified, Mr. Cohan did not keep good records; in fact, it appears that he did not keep any records, based on his busy schedule. When he included lots of expenses in his tax return, it was rejected. However, on appeal, Judge Learned Hand reversed the IRS. The Cohan rule basically means that you can estimate your expenses so long as you can show there is some basis for the deduction; in other words, can you prove you made improvements to your house?

      In the words of the Court: "it is not fatal that the result will inevitably be speculative; many important decisions must be such."

      Additionally, I have heard tax lawyers point out that section 274d of the tax code only requires substantiation for gifts, travel and entertainment. Since home improvements are not included in that list, you can >However, discuss your situation with your own financial and legal advisors. I cannot provide specific legal advice.

      Question: With all of the difficulties being experienced in the real estate marketplace and by >Answer: Jon. Thats a great question. First, lets provide some definitions.

      There is a title company. In the West, they are called "escrow companies". The title company conducts the settlement, arranges for all legal documents promissory note, deed of trust, truth in lending, etc to be signed and notarized, gathers in the funds from the buyer and the mortgage lender if applicable, records the legal documents among the land records in the jurisdiction where the property is located, and then disburses the settlement proceeds according to the settlement statement which is called a HUD-1.

      There is also a title insurance company that writes the title policy for both owners as well as lenders. The title or escrow company is an authorized agent for a title insurance company and has the right to issue the policies on behalf of that company.

      If the title company goes out of business for whatever reason, you still have the protection under your title policy by the insurance company on which the policy was written. They are what is known as the underwriter.

      But what if the underwriter -- the insurance company itself -- goes out of business? Every such company is regulated in every state in which they do business by the State Insurance department. The underwriter -- just like any other insurance company -- is required to maintain reserves, which are monitored carefully by the state insurance commissioner. And to my knowledge, most -- if not all -- states have policies in place to protect the insured in the event the company goes out of business. In many situations, other insurance companies have to take over and assume the obligations of the failed company.

      If you have more questions, I am sure that your states insurance department will be able to provide specific details about your states policies.

      But your question prompted me to remind all homeowners: when you went to closing you probably purchased an Owners title insurance policy. Typically, the title escrow company will want to record the legal documents first. Then when they are finally received back from the Recorder of Deeds, you will get the original recorded deed plus a copy of your title insurance policy.

      It often takes months to get the documents back from a Recorder of Deeds. So dont forget to make sure that ultimately, you get a copy of your title insurance policies.

      Question: My father added my brother and I to the deed of his house he bought back in 1979. Now that he did his living trust, he wants to remove us from title Deed so we dont have to pay taxes in case something happens to him. I understand his property taxes will go way up is that correct. Should he leave it like it is or remove us from title? Martha.

      Answer: Dear Martha. Property taxes will not go up me>However, in most cases, I dont like parents putting their children on title; that is considered a gift and the tax basis of the giftor your dad becomes the tax basis of the giftee you and your brother. That means that on his death, and if you want to sell the property, you potentially will have made a profit -- albeit a phantom profit.

      On the other hand, if you and your brother inherit the house on his death, you get what is known as the "stepped-up" basis -- ie the value of the property on the date he died. Thus, if you sell it shortly thereafter, you will probably make no profit and thus not have to pay any capital gains tax.

      Question: I have a similar situation; my mother bought a home by herself about 10 years ago and has recently added my name to the deed. I was told that when my mother passes away I will have to pay a higher tax because I was added to the deed rather than my mother granting me the house through her will/estate. I am not living in the house either. I am very confused about what steps we need to take to make this a smooth and least costly event for my mother and me. Thank you. Erika.

      Answer: Dear Erika: See my response to the question above yours. Yes, lets say your mother bought the house for 100,000 and made no improvements. When she dies, the property is valued at 500,000. If you inherit the house, your tax basis is stepped up -- in other words, the value of the house on your mothers death is that basis. So if you sell for 500,000, you have made no profit and thus do not have to pay any capital gains tax.

      But if she gave you half of the house, your basis is 50,000. Now she dies. You get the stepped up basis for your mothers half -- ie 250,000, but you overall tax basis is ow 300,000 250,000 50,000. If you sell for 500,000, you will have made a profit of 200,000 and unless you will have owned and used the house for two out the five years before it was sold, in which case you can claim the up-to-500,000 exclusion of gain or up-to-250,000 if you file a single tax return you will have to pay capital gains tax on your gain.

      The bottom line: in most cases, it makes no sense for a parent to gift a portion of the house or all of it to their children. But talk with your own financial advisors about your specific situations.

      Question: I recently got engaged and have plans to have my new fiancee move in to my house. I am currently the sole owner of the home. We have a wedding date scheduled for over 2 years from now. He makes much more money than I do and has a greater tax liability. Would it be advisable and/or beneficial to add him to my mortgage and title to allow him to attain the tax benefits? I believe the right off would be much more meaningful to him, but I dont want to make a mistake that will cost me more money in the future. Tori.

      Answer: Dear Tori. Congratulations. I never want to break up a >I dont think it is a good idea to put him on title. And it will cost you or him a lot of money to do it. You will have to pay your state and possibly local recordation and transfer tax, and your lender will want a brand new settlement closing/escrow in order to put his name on the deed and the mortgage.

      If you do decide to do this anyway, talk with a lawyer and enter into a written partnership agreement with him before his name is added to title. And title should be held as "tenants in common"; so that you preserve at least half of the property should you split up or should one of you die before the marriage.
      Full Story >

      Finally an Answer to One of the Most Commonly Asked Questions Homeowners Ask a Real Estate Agent

      The bluehammer home improvement calculator allows you to provide estimated costs for home improvement and repair projects for your clients. Its easy to use and can be accessed on all your connected devices. You can use it in a variety of ways to benefit your clients and gain business.

      Give clients an accurate cost of ownership, while they tour

      With bluehammer, agents have the opportunity to use the home improvement calculator to provide cost estimates for any home remodels or repairs that a prospective buyer may want while they tour the home. bluehammer offers real estate agents the unique ability to provide clients an overall potential cost of ownership. By combining information from the home improvement calculator with their expertise, real estate agents can successfully assist clients in negotiating the absolute best price for their home.

      Anticipate client questions on a new listing

      Touring a home thatrsquo;s new to you? As you walk through a new listing, look for potential upgrades or repairs that buyers will want completed. The bluehammer home improvement calculator will assist you in providing estimated costs for these repairs so yoursquo;ll be prepared when your client asks.

      Impress sellers with a property repair estimate

      Set yourself apart from the pack and wow potential sellers by offering a free bluehammer package that includes a property repair estimate. Walk through their house using the home improvement calculator and assist them by pointing out potential repairs and renovations that would increase the value of their home, all while providing an accurate estimated cost for those improvements.

      Take advantage of the ldquo;renovation boomrdquo;

      Now more than ever, buyers are looking for homes that need a little bit, or a lot, of TLC, and nothing stresses a homeowner out more than surprise renovation costs. With bluehammerrsquo;s home improvement calculator, clients can feel secure knowing that your estimates are gathered from real, local estimates right in their neighborhood.

      Step ahead of the competition and start being known as the go-to agent for renovation purchases in your neighborhood. Become a bluehammer agent today. Click to learn more and get started.nbsp;Realty Times readers can save 20, use this link to subscribe.

      Full Story >

      Sneaky Ways To Find A Home Thats About To Be Listed For Sale

      Coldwell Banker just rolled out some exciting new tech thats meant to help determine when someone is about to list their home for sale. What may sound Big Brother-y to some is being lauded by others as the Big Data answer to next-level real estate success. Call it the high-tech version of going door-to-door asking if owners are looking to sell their home. Also, call it a great lead source for agents and a potential boon for buyers looking for an "in" after repeatedly getting shut out of homes thanks to ongoing inventory issues.

      "In a real estate market facing a severe lack of homes for sale, agents could really use a secret weapon - something to shake up the status quo of the listing and selling gamehellip;something to help them compete in a low inventory market," said RISMedia.

      Coldwell Bankers solution: CBx Seller Leads, which can identify homes that are most likely to be sold before an agent ever becomes involved. "Coldwell Banker has taken it to the next level, expanding the value of big data for real estate by adding proprietary algorithms and machine learning to the data in the original CBx product to fuel the entire CBx Technology Suite and give brokers and agents access to market intelligence they cant get anywhere else."

      Skeptical? Consider this: "Coldwell Banker piloted CBx Seller Leads in 16 different markets; during the pilot, leads converted at twice the industry average."

      The potential advantage to the agent is undeniable, but we also love the benefit to buyers. Agents who nurture those leads may be able to find a gem for a client without having to fight other buyers in a crowded market where inventory is at a premium. But CBx Seller Leads isnt the only way to get an early beat on new homes that havent yet been listed. Here are some more tips that could help you find that elusive home.

      Stalk your preferred neighborhood

      Sure, the workmen outside that cute corner Colonial could mean the homeowners are doing some updates to make the house function better for them. Or, it could mean theyre making updates to get the home in better shape so they can list it. You dont know until you ask. Your real estate agent may recommend leaving this task to them for best results, and, you never know - it could turn out that you end up shaking on an as-is property that gets you into a desired neighborhood, gets you a great deal, and gives you the opportunity to fix it up the way you want to.

      Work with a connected REALTORreg;

      If a listing doesnt get posted to the MLS or the big listing sites like Trulia and Redfin, how do you find out about pocket listings? The first step is to ask your real estate agent. Tell them that youre interested in pocket listings and that youd like to expand your search beyond the homes on the MLS. Encourage them to reach out to other realtors to see if there is a hidden gem on the market. Its a lot more work than scouring the online listings, but sometimes it can really pay off. In addition to working with an agent, there are also sites getting into the pocket listing game, such asnbsp;PocketList, which specializes in unlisted homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Zillow also hasnbsp;a "coming soon" search feature, which allows you to check out homes that have not yet been posted on a listing service.

      What youre looking for in a real estate agent is someone who is going to work hard for you, obviously. But, especially when youre trying to find a home in a hot market where there arent a lot of available homes, working with someone who has a large base of connections in the industry and a great working >

      Look for an unkempt yard

      Could be an overwhelmed homeowner, could be the owners are on an extended vacationhellip;or it could be that the home is about to be foreclosed on.

      Track "Notices of Default"

      Finding a pre-foreclosure property isnt as easy as driving down the street in your preferred neighborhood, looking for signs on the lawn. There is no complete list that aggregates listings of homes subject to a notice of default, and it can be a process to find these potential buys. A savvy agent who hustles to find properties in default can be a real asset to a buyer, especially if they are able to cultivate a >

      "The easiest way to buy a pre-foreclosure home is to help the seller to make up the back payments and then arrange to buy the home directly from the seller," said The Balance.

      Full Story >

      Ten Mistakes That Will Keep Your Home From Selling

      When youre selling your home, you need every advantage you can get. And there are few homes that are magically market ready without a little help. If your home needs a touch more than a little help, its time to get focused. After all, listing your home when its not in the right condition to sell will probably only end in frustration. And, in this case, frustration means: your home sitting on the market for months with no offers or the errant, offensive, lowball.

      If you want to make sure you get home sold quickly and for the right price, youll want to avoid listing it with the following:

      1. Excessive damage

      Maybe the home youre selling was used as a rental and trashed by frat boy tenants, or maybe you just havent kept it up as you should. Either way, those holes in the wall that look like the living room was used as a boxing gym, the scratched-up wood floors on which dinosaurs have clearly been racing, and the yard thats barren except for those two-foot-tall patches of weeds are not what buyers are looking for. Unless youre planning to offer your house for a price that will make buyers emphasize the good and ignore the bad and the ugly, its going to need some attention.

      2. Carpet in the bathroom

      Its just gross. And everyone who walks into that bathroom is thinking one of two things: 1 Theres gotta be mold under there; 2 Theres gotta be pee on the floor around that toilet. This is one update youll want to do before you list. Or, if youre already listed and your homes not selling.

      3. Big, nasty stains

      A buyer shouldnt know where your dog likes to mark or where your kids spilled the entire bowl of holiday punch. If the stains on your carpet are that bad, potential buyers will stroll in and run right back out. No one wants to buy a pigsty. Invest a few bucks in new carpet. Youll make the money back since you wont have to drop your sales price.

      4. Pet smells

      Speaking of petsthey smell. You probably dont notice since you live with them everyday, but buyers will, and it might be enough to turn them off. Deep clean the carpets and the upholstery, invest in some air fresheners, and remove cat boxes from the house for showings. The last thing you want is a potential buyer referring to your house as "the stinky one."

      5. Loud dogs who bark every time someone approaches the home

      One last word on pets. Barking happens, whether its your dog or one that belongs to a neighbor. But you dont need that on the day of your open house. Offering to pay for doggie day care for a neighbors pooch can eliminate the issue and help create the serene setting buyers want.

      6. Your dead lawn

      Lack of curb appeal wont necessarily kill a deal. In many cases, you wont even get potential buyers to get out of the car. If the front yard is a mess, buyers will naturally think the mess continues inside.

      7. A bad agent

      Face it. Not all of them are winners. If your agent is: rude, uninformed, lazy, uncommunicative, belligerent, or unwilling to take your opinions into consideration, get a new one. An agent who isnt giving their client the right type of attention probably isnt going to get the job done.

      8. Your sloppiness

      Those drawers and cabinets you shoved everything into when you cleaned off your kitchen and bathroom cabinets could be a deal breaker for picky buyers. We all know buyers open stuff. They look in drawers, they open cabinets, they examine closets. If these spaces are messy and overstuffed, they may assume theres not enough storage space.

      9. Unreasonable sellers

      Big problems in your house can be deal killers, but they can also be deal sealers, if you are reasonable. If your inspection uncovers plumbing, electrical, or roofing problems or all three and youre unwilling to negotiate, you can kiss that sale goodbye.

      10. Bad Taste

      Your poor decorating choices and failure to keep up with trends from this year - or century - may haunt you when its time to sell. If its true that many buyers have no visionand all you have to do is watch House Hunters and observe a buyer getting hung up on a paint color to know thats true - then you are really in for it with your crowded house full of ugly, outdated crap. A few simple updates can help it to look fresh and give buyers something to fall in love with. Not sure where to start? Check out FrontDoors 15 Updates That Pay Off and HGTVs 10 Best-Kept Secrets For Selling Your Home.
      Full Story >

      Patios Can Appeal To Buyers

      Depending on where you live, a patio might not be the kind of thing you think about during the cold, and maybe snowy, winter months. But a patio is what many people enjoy on a sunny warm afternoon. It just feels good to sit outside and sip some iced tea or lemonade. Thats the picture your real estate agent would want to capture when listing your home for sale.

      Patios are appealing because they can create a sense of peace, open space, freedom, and they can seem to extend the square footage of livable space on those good weather days.

      Set out on your patio some simple but comfortable patio furniture when youre listing your home and you might find that prospective buyers take a seat and think about your home. Good Let them soak in the energy of the home. The way it feels. The way it allows them to >So, what if you have a backyard but no patio; is it worth investing in one? The answer depends on your financial situation but theres no doubt that having a patio or a deck - a space outdoors to >However, here are a few tips about creating that patio space. If you have a small backyard, you dont necessarily want to take up the entire space with a concrete patio. The reason? Greenery is also appealing. Basically, you want to have the patio proportionally sized to your yard. So you dont want to have a huge yard and tiny patio nor the opposite.

      Your patio should be located close to an entryway to the home, typically the kitchen. This is so that if there is grilling or eating outside, people can easily access the kitchen as opposed to walking through some other room in the house first.

      Patios also should be located in areas where there is some level of privacy. A patio is most appealing when you can sit back, >Buyers often consider a well-built and maintained patio a plus and may create a higher selling price for your home.

      To cover or not? Often when homeowners put in patios, they question if adding a covering would help increase the value of their home. That really depends on many things such as if the covering is well built and maintained and if its aesthetically pleasing, not blocking views, etc. In the case where its crafted and maintained well, the patio and its covering can increase the appeal of your home. That could translate to a higher selling price as well as a faster sale.
      Full Story >

      Ask the HOA Expert: Time Limits On Board Meetings

      Question: What do you think about placing a time limit on the board meetings? There are some members that believe that there should be no time limit and others that believe there should be.

      Answer: Generally, board meetings should not go longer than two hours. This seems to be the average time limit for sustained human concentration. Board meetings should always have a set agenda together with proposals, information and recommendations circulated in advance to the directors for review. In other words, the directors should not arrive at the meeting cold and clueless. They should have a good idea about the topics of discussion and be prepared only to clarify the issues before an up or down vote. Board meetings should never involve rambling discussion. Board meetings are intended to transact business. Stick to the agenda, get business done and adjoin the meeting in two hours or less.

      Having short board meetings is an effective recruiting tool for good board members. Successful business people value their own personal time and will be more inclined to volunteer if the meetings are run in a businesslike way.

      Question: In our HOA, many of the original old wooden fences need to be replaced. The governing documents address fence design and material but do not mention height. The board has issued fence guidelines which state that the maximum height is five feet. Some of our members have challenged the boards policy since they want a six foot fence.

      Answer: Architectural and design policies like fences are often enacted by the board. If the board has a reasonable basis for setting the five foot limit like that has been the standard for years, it has every right to do so. The fact that some may not agree is no surprise. Welcome to America. But the board has the authority to set such policies and amend them later if there is a compelling reason to do so.

      Question: Our HOA has a strict policy in order to preserve the streetscape and prevent clear-cutting. The board gets requests from time to time from members asking permission to cut trees. We will inspect and sometimes approve the cutting if there is disease or damage. If not, the requests are denied.

      We now have a resident who is requesting to cut two tall pine trees that are close to his house due to the potential of the trees falling. He is stating that the HOA will be liable if the tree falls. Is the HOA exempt from such liability if the governing documents state that significant trees cannot be cut?

      Answer: Besides the falling tree issue is the potential fire hazard. Trees should be located at least 30 feet from the structure, especially if they are highly flammable like pine trees. There is also the issue of tree limbs damaging the roof and the trees causing foundation damage when they sway in the wind.

      But to address a specific request, it would be prudent to get a licensed arborist to review the trees in question. If the arborist believes they are a danger, they should be removed. Otherwise, they should not. The board is not responsible for acts of God, only for handling business in a prudent manner. Use experts to your advantage.

      Question: Our condominium has a member that is eight months delinquent in HOA fees. He says he has declared bankruptcy, but he has renters in his unit and is collecting rent every month. The renters use the facilities and utilities gas, electricity, water, trash. Is there anything the board can do when someone has declared bankruptcy yet is collecting rent every month?

      Answer: Yes, there is a lot the board can do and the sooner the better. The board needs to enact a comprehensive Collection Policy which allows "assignment of rents" from delinquent landlord owners. The Collection Policy could also include interruption of HOA provided utilities in the event of delinquency. The HOA would have to have individual utility unit shut off capability but this is an extremely effective way to get the attention of the unit owner.

      If the board is going to enact a new or amended Collection Policy, it should be circulated to all members in advance with a notice that it is going into effect on such and such date. This may encourage delinquent members to pay up before it does.

      And the board should identify and work with an attorney that is knowledgeable in HOA collections to deal with delinquencies in the early stages. If this member has truly filed bankruptcy, the bill may be difficult or impossible to collect. A basic of all HOA collection policies is to act early and aggressively to secure the HOAs debt. For a sample Collection Policy, see Policy section.

      For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
      Full Story >

      Custom Built-Ins Make The Most Of Every Inch

      Whether you live in a house or condo, chances are you dont have enough storage space. Custom built-ins are a great way to make the most of every inch, to solve design problems and add a sense of order.

      Built-ins around the fireplace open shelving on top and closed on the bottom and systems to accommodate media components are among the most common. However, the skys the limit for a creative designer who can come up with stylish and personalized storage solutions. Designer Sabrina Bitton built a lit, glass-front shelf to display a beautiful shoe collection. Builder Amedeo Barbini designed speciality storage for a client who loves expensive wreaths and "needed a special place to store and organize them."

      The design of built-in units depends on what you want to store -- the actual pieces, their >Homeowners life>Built-ins can also conceal bars and media centres, or house Murphy beds so rooms can do double duty as >Putting otherwise wasted space to use is key. A bookshelf can be added to the end of a hallway, along its length or beside and around a door to add usable space. Nooks between studs provide a place to store towels in bathrooms, display treasures or even house spices in the kitchen.

      Built-ins with doors are the perfect way to store unsightly items, adding a sense of calm to a space.

      With or without doors, built-ins also make great room dividers. In one master bedroom project, Bitton placed the bed in the middle of the room and used a closet as a headboard.

      Half walls that separate space are popular, especially in large lofts. Low built-ins are a modern approach, Stepanek says.

      Placement is key to ensure that views, light and flow are not blocked, Bitton says. Shelving thats open front and back keep the space open. Built-ins divide and ground a space and are particularly useful in breaking up a long, narrow space.

      Theyre are also a great way to solve design problems such as large columns in condominiums. Stepanek says the column in her friends condo had only a foot of space between it and the window. She built open shelving in rings around the column so her friend could display keepsakes. It solved a problem but created unique shelving.

      If there is a mechanical stack, built-ins can be used to square the room.

      A gym bag was the catalyst for another of Barbinis storage solutions. "The individual gets up early, takes his gym bag and goes to the gym, comes back and wants a place to store it," he says.

      The solution? Barbini built three drawers under the stairs. One accommodates the gym bag, another the central vacuum hose and the other is for keys.

      Wasted space around a see-through fireplace on a 10-inch-thick wall that separates the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom offers shelving and drawers. "It was space that would otherwise have gone to waste," Barbini says.

      Stepanek says the smallest built-in they have designed was just eight-inches-deep. It has to be at least that size because "you still want to be able to store stuff in it," she says.

      Bitton, also a fashion designer/fashionista, needs lots of storage for clothes. In her 1,800-square-foot condo, she built floor-to-ceiling cabinets in the kitchen and dining room. The uppermost cabinets open to reveal pull-down racks so clothing is stored away yet is easily accessible.

      Accessibility -- storage versus everyday use -- is another consideration when considering what will be stored where.

      Custom cabinetry is also a great solution for rooms with dormers or sloped ceilings because the cabinetry can be designed to follow the shape of the ceiling. Extending cabinetry to ceiling height also maximizes storage space.

      In her living room, Bitton sliced a corner wall and used open shelving in its place. The open shelves create a softer "corner" and dont block views and light, giving the space an airy, brighter feel.

      Built-ins are part of the architecture or are an architectural component in North American homes, unlike in Europe where freestanding cabinets are built and taken with them when people move.

      Theyre a feature that homeowners love.

      Its important to hire a professional, Bitton says. A professional designer can provide personalized creative solutions, suggest the proper placement and recommend materials that will take your room from ordinary to extraordinary.


      Designer Sabrina Bitton created a lit, glass-front shelf to display a beautiful shoe collection.

      Builder Amedeo Barbini created built-in shelving on either side of a dining room doorway so the owners could display colourful glass treasures.
      Full Story >

      When It Comes To Fair Housing, What Can You Say?

      The column that follows below, has appeared before on these pages screens?. It was last published four years ago. But, like false news, the real estate myth of prohibited language continues to be circulated. The persistent influence of uninformed people is, indeed, a force to be reckoned with. So, here we go again.

      Some myths take on a life of their own. Not only do they refuse to die, but also, they grow and expand. Recently, it has come to our attention that this seems to be true of what we might call the real estate myth of prohibited language. Like most myths, it began in a truth. The truth was, and is, that Section 804c of the Fair Housing Act "prohibits the making, printing, and publishing of advertisements which state a preference, limitation or discrimination on the basis of race, color, >What is the myth? It is the belief that the Fair Housing Act prohibits the use of any words or phrases that could conceivably offend someone or that could in any way, shape, or form suggest that describing the >It has been more than twenty years now since the Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD issued a memorandum,HUD Guidance Regarding Advertisements Under Section 804c of the Fair Housing Act, which was designed to put the myth to rest. Alas, the myth seems to have had greater staying power. While the memorandum is still official HUD policy, many people in the real estate community -- including those who police the MLS -- seem to be oblivious to it. Fortunately, the memo is readily available as an appendix in the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR publication, Fair Housing Handbook. Or, you could Google it.

      The memorandum addresses wording issues as they arise with respect to the various seven protected >1. Race, color, or national origin: "Use of words describing the housing, the current or potential residents or the neighbors or neighborhood in racial or ethnic terms i.e., white family home, no Irish will create liability under this section. However, advertisements which are facially [apparently] neutral will not create liability. Thus, complaints over use of phrases such as master bedroom, rare find, or desirable neighborhood should not be filed."

      2. >"Advertisements should not contain an explicit preference, limitation or discrimination on account of >do not on their face state a preference for persons likely to make use of those facilities and are not violations of the Act."

      3. Sex: " Use of the term master bedroom does not constitute a violation of either the sex discrimination provisions or the race discrimination provisions. Terms such as "mother-in-law suite" and "bachelor apartment" are commonly used as physical descriptions of housing units and do not violate the Act."

      4. Handicap: "Advertisements containing descriptions of properties great view, fourth floor walkup, walk-in closets, services or facilities jogging trails or neighborhoods walk to bus stop do not violate the Act"

      5. Familial status: "Advertisements describing the properties two bedroom, cozy, family room, services and facilities no bicycles allowed or neighborhoods quiet streets are not facially discriminatory and do not violate the Act."

      So, there you have it. Straight from your government. Something sensible. Savor it and pass the word. Myth busters, unite.
      Full Story >

      8 Ways To Lower Your Water Bill This Summer

      When the temps rise, so does water usage. And that means a larger impact on areas that are already struggling with drought conditions, not to mention the impact on your wallet, regardless of where you live.

      "Summers rising temperatures often coincide with rising outdoor water use, primarily due to an increase in lawn and landscape watering," said WaterSense. "While using water efficiently is important throughout the year, sometimes the timing of water use can make a big difference for community water supplies - and your water bill."

      In most cases, there are easy fixes you can make to be more water efficient. Here are 8 you can incorporate into your daily habits immediately.

      Turn off the faucet

      Did you know that you waste a good four gallons of water every time you leave the faucet running while youre brushing your teeth? This one easy change can make a big difference in your water usage and conservation efforts.

      Check the toilets

      "It may seem like a slow drip, but those drips add up to gallons faster than you might realize," said Maximum Yield. "To diagnose a silent toilet leak, place food coloring in your toilet tank and wait to see if the color makes it into the bowl. If you see color seeping in, its time for a fix."

      Set a timer

      Have kids or spouses that take impossibly long showers? Even cutting back on a couple a week can dramatically curb your water usage. Shave off two minutes to save as much as 1,750 gallons of water per person a year Set a 10-minute timer on a waterproof shower clock so your water-wasting offender can see how much time they have left to rinse, lather, and repeat.

      Use the dishwasher

      Heres a surprising fact: You actually use far more water handwashing dishes than if you run the dishwasher. How much more? "Doing a full load in your machine is far more efficient than washing the same number of dishes by hand," said This Old House. "This is especially true if you have an Energy Star dishwasher, which requires an average of four gallons of water per load, compared with the 24 gallons it takes to do them in the sink. Using one will save you 5,000 gallons of water, 40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time each year."

      Go to the car wash

      Yes, you can save a few bucks by washing your car at home. But if you think youre saving water, too, this may come as a shock: You use two and a half times more water handwashing the car than you would at the car wash

      Check your sprinklers

      Malfunctioning sprinklers could be costing you money and wasting water. Sprinkler heads that dont properly deliver an even spray could cause parts of your lawn to die. If the heads dont lower properly, they can be damaged or broken easily.

      You may also be overwatering. "If the environmental argument for conserving water doesnt appeal to you, heres a financial one: According to the city of Cleveland, the average cost of water starts at around 13 per 1,000 gallons," said Schill Grounds Management. "This may not seem like a ton of money, but volume quickly adds up when youre irrigating a large property. At this rate, the average sprinkler spraying just one zone it shouldnt be for 12 minutes/day at 12 gallons/minute can waste over 680 per year The simple truth is that only annuals need to be watered daily. Trees, shrubs, and turf can all be watered less frequently for massive water savings."

      A check of your system could save you money and hassle.

      Water in the morning or at night

      Letting your sprinklers go during the hottest time of the day minimizes the benefit of watering. "Water evaporates quickly when the sun is high, so sprinkle when its more likely to stay in the soil," said the National Resources Defense Council NRDC. "And make sure youre watering your yard, not the sidewalk or driveway. A drip irrigation system works better than sprinklers, as it sends targeted amounts of water exactly where you want it. Check to see if you qualify for a rebate to make your irrigation system more water efficient."

      Mulch it

      Mulch doesnt just make your yard look fresh, but it also helps keep moisture in. "Mulched gardens are healthier, have fewer weeds, and are more drought-resistant than unmulched gardens," said Good Housekeeping. For the best results, consider rubber mulch. "Rubber is a step up from the bark-like texture youre probably used to seeing," said HGTV. "Made from 100-percent recycled tires, rubber mulch is suitable to use on most landscapes. It has several benefits: a safe play surface for children, prevents weeds, does not attract insects and water and air can easily flow through it."
      Full Story >

      8 Tips For Creating The Perfect Home Office

      Home office are one of the most in-demand home features today and continue to rise in popularity as more and more people work from home or bring their work home. A new report from Upwork found that nearly two-thirds of companies today have remote workers, and, according to Forbes, more and more Americans are quitting their day jobs to start their own businesses.

      But creating a home office that functions well takes more than simply dragging an old desk out of the garage and pulling up a dining chair. The right elements can help you work better and more efficiently.

      The right spot

      You dont always have the option of choosing the location for your home office; your place may already have a dedicated space. But if you are choosing between a few locations, consider this: "Youll likely spend many hours in your home office, so dont stiff yourself on space e.g. squishing a tiny desk into a windowless closet to preserve the ra>The right privacy

      Even if youre a "keep the door open" type, having one you can close when you need to mega-concentrate or take a phone call is key to creating a functional home office. If your home doesnt have a dedicated office space and there isnt a bedroom you can convert, a dining room may be your best bet. Many families today dont use their dining room, especially if they have a breakfast nook and/or an island with eating bar. Adding glass doors to the room will give you privacy without visually closing off the space.

      The right chair

      When youre sitting for hours a day, you want to be comfortable. A supportive chair is worth the expense to ensure youre not fidgety and distracted, and that you dont end up with a back injury. "Dont underestimate the power of a good chair," said Forbes. "The right support, while working, can help you prevent postural problems, like back pain, later on. If you want to be trendy, you can try to use a stability ball, or if youre interested in avoiding the problems with sitting in general, you can invest in a standing desk. In any case, you need a comfortable, healthy way to work."

      The right color

      You probably dont want to paint your home office a color that clashes with the rest of your decor, especially if its visible from other parts of the house. But expressing some individuality in the space can help fuel creativity and productivity. "Colors and moods are interconnected, and the psychological impact of color should be considered when interior designers work with home owners to select a color palette," said Harrington College of Design. "When chosen with care, paint colors can enhance the atmosphere of every room in the house. Blue is a great color choice for a home office or study because it creates a soothing, >The right storage

      Remember you can use vertical space to make up for a lack square footage and give you more storage options.

      The right mix of personality

      Sure, your home office is a professional place where important stuff gets done. But dont forget to put a little "you" into it. Studies show that we work better when surrounded by things that make us happy. "Incorporate elements you love into the design," said Glassdoor. "Most corporate offices dont allow you to decorate your space. You might get to have a family picture at your desk, but not much else.

      At home, though, you are at liberty to decorate your office any way you like."

      The right light

      Lighting is essential for being able to see properly, obviously. Too little light can create eye strain and headaches, so make sure you have a good mix of overhead and task lighting. But dont forget about the natural light.

      "When putting a new desk into a home office, a lot of people kind of reflexively put it right up against the wall in the darkest corner of the room," said Linda Varone, author of The Smarter Home Office, on Fast Company. "What theyve inadvertently done is recreated the corporate cubicle. And who wants that? Move your desk close to the windows, but place it parallel to the panes. This ideal set-up gives you the happiness benefits of natural light, and a good reason to turn away from your computer every few minutes to take in the scene."

      The right supplies

      Just like you do a regular inventory of your kitchen essentials to keep the fridge and pantry well-stocked, you want to do the same in your office. "Dont let yourself get hung up because you ran out of printer ink or cant find a pen," said Small Biz Trends. "A functional office needs supplies and the proper equipment to function."
      Full Story >

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    Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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